This is part 2 of ‘Becoming The FruitMonster’. If you haven’t read part 1, be sure to read that first!
In my previous post, I let you in a little secret of mine: how terribly I treated my digestive system during my freshman year of college. When you hear about the way I used to eat, it’s not really that surprising that I have some problems with how my general gut function behaves. Pounding four hamburger patties at a time… ridiculous! The human body was not meant to eat the way I did, and although a lot of people could get away with eating in that manner, I was/am unfortunately of poor genetic quality in the digestive realm already.
There are a number of digestive issues on both my mother and father’s side of the family. Most notably my father, who is on Nexium (evil stuff! stay away! I want him off of it!) and has weekly, if not daily bouts with acid-reflux and stomachaches and probably does not posses the healthiest colon function (but who honestly talks to their father at length about droppin deuces anyway?). Also my mother’s father and sister are both victims of poop-poor (as in piss-poor?) genetics. The prior has always had a sensitive stomach, and can’t eat certain “trouble foods” (if you have digestive problems, you need to identify which are yours!) and the latter who has a very hard time with her lower digestive tract. It doesn’t end there! Both my dad’s mother and sister have had gallbladder removals and, most unfortunately, my brother and sister have both, in the last year, began to exhibit acid-reflux symptoms and general food-factory malaise.
So I’m screwed from the start right? I have all sorts of digestive ailments in my family that I’m doomed to realize in some form or another in my life, from BOTH sides of my genetic make-up (imagine a sperm popping two tums and an egg cell doing a uterine inspired version of the pepto-bismul dance during my conception). And THEN I go off to college and eat like a freakin’ maniac. GREAT. Smart move fruity-pants, no wonder why your howlin’ about your bowels to the blogosphere.
The First Signs of Reflux
So we exit freshman year, and I leave the generously stocked Jefferson Dining Hall for a summer of home-cooking. I was a lifeguard during the summers at that time, spending a lot of time outdoors in the heat, working and burning a lot of calories, and also, not eating nearly as much as I did in the prior months. So what did the sudden drop in calorie intake do to me? Well it left me in a state of over-production of stomach acid and lead to my first symptoms of acid reflux. After about a month of time at home, I began feeling pain in my chest like I needed to burp after I ate. My dad of course suggested I ‘try some Tums’, but those didn’t really help me much (if you know anything about stomach chemistry, you’ll know that medicine like Tums actually spikes your acid production after the initial drop), instead I found refuge in the pepto-trio (pictorially defamed above). As the summer went on, the problem just got worse and by the end of it, I was visiting the doctor. And what did good old doc doctor me up with? A little pestilent purple pill called Nexium. Thankfully, I only took them a handful (pun?) of times, where upon not realizing any positive effects, I stopped taking them.
So, into my sophomore year of college, the reflux continued to get worse, first only bothering me during the day, but then also slowly creeping up my throat at night. It wasn’t enough to bother me into going back to the doctor, but it sure was a nuisance. During this time, I was also right back into lifting and eating heavily (an eat-o-holic?) again, eager to put back on the 15-20lbs I lost over the summer. Although, it was definitely a tamer version of what I had been doing as a frosh (considering Jared, my lifting buddy, was recovering from shoulder surgery – due to an injury incurred while we fervently were pumping iron the year before. I have I mentioned we were stupid?), but it was certainly still enough to torture my stomach further. Throughout that year, my bouts of stomach pain became increasingly more frequent and my reflux symptoms more intense, a trend that continued (sparing you too many details ) into the autumn of my junior of college, where it finally reached a tipping point… and I was headed back to the medicine man.
So, What’s Up Doc?
This time my doctor was in Athens, where I went to school. He was an older man, probably in his 60s, and was “by the book” kind of guy who didn’t really analyze his patients as individuals, but instead viewed them as problem sets in his med school books and a test subjects of his research journals (a gripe probably applicable to most medical professionals out there). What did he recommend? Well to begin, an upper endoscopy, which is where they knock you out, wheel you into a cold dark room half-conscious, shove a tube down your throat, light up your insides, and then leave you to puke on yourself in a recovery room while forcing you to leave earlier than your ability to sit-up straight and reason coherently returns. Sounds wonderful eh? Well I have now done this twice, with the ONLY upside to this predicament being the follow up review of the hilarity of my anesthetized antics. I say it’s the ‘only’ upside because A) it SUCKED and B) both times I have done this, I have gotten bad news when I was done.
This time, I was diagnosed with duodenal and peptic ulcers. Meaning that while food was sitting in my stomach and as it emptied into my small intestine, hydro-chloric acid was running over open canker-sore-like wounds on my insides. No wonder why I was in so much pain! Also, as a double whammy, I was also exhibiting the initial symptoms of erosive esophagitus (aka, my stomach acid was doing a caustic tap dance on my swallow tube). My response “Thanks for making my day doc! Now what?” His stupid suggestion? Prevacid. A proton-pump inhibitor which, when taken first thing in the morning would stop the secretion of my gastro-intestinal digestive juices. In theory, this increased stomach pH (less acidic!) would allow those ulcers to magically disappear, my insides would be wondrously healed and I would smile just like the actors lying through their falsely whitened teeth in the television commercials.
So of course, being brought up believing “Doc knows best!”, I took those pretty pink pills every morning, religiously. Because I sure as heck wanted to feel better! Little did I know that I was dooming my body’s ability to ever digest properly again, but I will save that one for post 3. Gotta take it easy on this stomach talk, or I might give someone an ulcer